Tax group hears how to appeal and fight city hall

ALBANY -- In order to make its voice heard on real estate tax issues, a local taxpayer group plans to flood the government with appeals.

Facing a system rife with legal terminology won't be easy, even with a guide.

Attorney Jeremy Lynch explained to the Dougherty County Taxpayer's Association how to file appeals on real estate tax assessments. He spoke Thursday night at Merry Acres Conference Center. Not many in the crowd of more than 150 took notes.

"Maybe 10 percent of the people caught on," said B.J. Fletcher, a member of the group. "We might need a professional to do this. It was just too complex for many of us."

In an hour presentation, Lynch walked the crowd through filing a real estate tax return -- a PT-50R. This is required every year, but not many people in the crowd bother to file.

Filling out the form is not an appeal, but it must be filled out in order to eventually appeal. The taxpayer will make his own assessment of the property value. If that value is rejected by the assessor, the taxpayer then has 45 days to make the appeal.

According to Lynch, the best basis for an appeal is uniformity of taxation. It can also be coupled with a fair market value appeal.

Uniformity of taxation means, Lynch said, that a property, house and accessories such as a swimming pool would be taxed the same as another property, house and swimming pool of the same size and features.

The idea is to find similar properties that have been assessed at lower value and present them as part of an argument to have the taxpayer's property assessed lower.

"This is the best argument for an appeal that I have found," Lynch said. "It is the argument that judges and assessors have told me is the best."

Lynch went through the process that an appeal would take after it is filed. It could be called daunting to the layperson.

Despite the complexity of the undertaking, Richard Thomas, chairman of the Dougherty County Taxpayer's Association, hopes to put a wrench in the gears of the taxing agency.

"People are still paying (real estate) taxes on the assessment that was done in 2007, at the height of the market," Thomas said. "The market has gone way down since then. We hope to file enough appeals to force a reassessment."